Doug Stanhope: more irresponsible messaging for DJ to rebuke

In his interview with Russia Times, Doug Stanhope, who will be part of The Amazing Meeting’s entertainment at 9pm Friday night, gives full-throated defense of Daniel Tosh’s right to make rape jokes — which right nobody has actually denied.

But not just rape jokes — also the right to suggest that it would be humorous if five men suddenly started raping an audience member who dared to say that rape jokes aren’t actually funny.

What’s interesting is that there are, in fact, funny rape jokes — but those jokes usually involve sniping at the purveyors and maintainers of a rape culture that allows rape to happen, rather than at the victims of rape (who are largely women). Punching up vs punching down is important if you want to make jokes about a topic without being seen as a complete and utter asshole. When you are privileged with not having to think about and/or actively avoid being raped, you have to consider that some other folks do not have that privilege, and making jokes at their expense is punching down.

And not just for jokes on the topic of rape, but also jokes about mentally handicapped folks. (As though anyone said anything about the word “retard” prior to Stanhope bringing it up.) You can make jokes about mental handicaps without kicking underprivileged or neuro-atypical folks. It’s been done. George Carlin and Richard Pryor come to mind immediately.

The interesting thing is, nobody has ever said these comedians don’t have the right to make these jokes. What they’ve said is that people will probably judge them to be terrible human beings for it. What the heckler/blogger expressly said was that she does not find jokes made at the expense of victims of rape funny, ever. And her view isn’t unique — neither do I.

This isn’t even a case of someone using slurs in an environment built to disarm them, like Tim Wick’s Vilification Tennis — where everyone involved agrees that the insults are terrible and nobody should make them (and that’s why nothing is off-limits). This is a full-throated defense of the right to make these insults as though the insults carry no import or meaning, and that to judge someone’s messaging as odious is to deny them the right to craft that message.

Interestingly, Stanhope expressly slurs The Amazing Meeting and its attendants as a place where bitter and miserable skeptics and atheists who like rape jokes get together. Now while this isn’t necessarily an unfair assessment, doesn’t that make it seem as though — via the same availability heuristic cognitive bias that DJ blames for lowered TAM attendance by women — the convention is populated only by bitter, miserable people who like jokes about rape? Considering how few women apparently enjoy rape jokes themselves, and how many might avoid a venue filled with people like that (or even just the perception that it is filled with people like that!), couldn’t that sort of thing be exactly the same kind of “irresponsible messaging” that DJ Grothe blamed on female bloggers discussing convention harassment? Couldn’t that sort of messaging also contribute to the “mistaken” impression that TAM is not a particularly welcoming place to women?

I look forward to DJ’s take on this comic’s assessment of TAM. I am under no illusion that it will happen because I asked for it, though.

Doug Stanhope: more irresponsible messaging for DJ to rebuke

27 thoughts on “Doug Stanhope: more irresponsible messaging for DJ to rebuke

  1. 1

    The interesting thing is, nobody has ever said these comedians don’t have the right to make these jokes.

    I can see where some confusion comes from in the communication. The female heckler at the Tosh performance said rape jokes are never funny.

    People supporting her agreed that rape jokes a pretty terrible, many people don’t find them funny, some people are triggered by them. It’s not a stretch to get from the more complex position to “you shouldn’t tell rape jokes” or “you shouldn’t have told that joke because it’s a rape joke”.

    I think the anti-rape_joke group wants to raise consciousness and get people to refrain from making rape jokes. The difference between an authoritarian ban and a self-made choice that reduces or eliminates rape jokes is perhaps hard for some people to notice in the heat of argument.

  2. 2

    I look forward to DJ’s take on this comic’s assessment of TAM. I am under no illusion that it will happen because I asked for it, though.

    I doubt any of us are holding our collective breath waiting for DJ to enlighten us on his reaction to an invited TAM speaker denigrating TAM attendees.

  3. 4

    I was hoping Jamie Kilstein would be there again this year. Frankly, his was the only performance at last TAM’s SATIRISTAS show that I enjoyed. He’s also one of the very few stand-up comics who has spoken up against Tosh.

    I’m glad I am not at TAM. I’m also glad I’m leaving for vacation tomorrow and can take a break from all this depressing news.

  4. 6

    Mr. Tosh (or any other comedian for that matter) can tell as many rape jokes as they want. They have that right. But they shouldn’t expect people to laugh at those jokes, especially when they are unfunny and hurtful.

  5. jon

    I’ve told a few different jokes to my friends, my collegues, my wife and my kids.

    problem is, there’s no consistency: you can’t even say ‘programmer like [x-style] of humor, and women like [y-style] of humor, and kids like [z-style]’

    It’s like humor is somehow a subjective thing……

  6. 10

    I’ve got a close friend that was raped. For all the years that I’ve known her, she just bites her lip or silently shuts down when somebody in the room is making a rape joke.

    Would I outlaw rape jokes? Of course not.

    But anyone who would make a rape joke should be aware that there is most likely one (or more) people in their audience that have been raped. For those people, rape jokes aren’t just never funny, they’re always painful.

  7. Tom

    Its strange; I have never heard a rape joke.
    I cannot imagine one being funny.
    Is it an American thing or have I just led a very protected life?

  8. 12

    Well, obviously a sentence shouted into a room isn’t what you would call a nuanced statement on a subject. It can’t be.
    Of course, people are now using this as alleged proof of feminists’ hypocrisy.
    Obviously, it matter who makes a joke, to whom and if they’re punching up or down.
    What is OK for the underprivileged group is not OK for the privileged group.
    The Godless Bitches Podcast does not give anybody the excuse to call those women bitches.
    The Onion Article about the pedophile football coach (I keep forgetting names) was funny because the punchline where those who stood aside.
    And yes, some people get to make pink fluffy ladybrainz jokes at me, Sammiches jokes, hooker jokes. ‘Cause those people have a relationship with me in which we can use the joke to joke about the joke.

    And yes, your freedom of speech allows you to make those jokes. My freedom of speech allows me to call you an utter asshole devoid of human empathy who intentionally hurts people weaker than yourself.

  9. 13

    Claus: so you’ve bowed out of one language-oriented discussion after being roundly told you’re wrong, in order to try your hand at another thread to turn it, too, into a language-based discussion?

    Okay, fine, I’ll play.

    This is a rhetorical device. DJ Grothe has acted a certain way to feminists and women discussing harassment that they’ve experienced — he’s told them that this discussion was to blame for the low percentage of women attending TAM. In other words, by people hearing about certain incidents of harassment that were ignored and not dealt with appropriately, these women were giving people the mistaken impression that TAM is somehow an unsafe place (e.g., that people stand a good chance of being assaulted). This is actually not what anyone was saying (I explain as much in my essay Safe — TAM is NOT LESS safe than other places, but if DJ was doing his job, he’d be trying to make it MORE safe than other places).

    So, I am suggesting that if DJ Grothe were consistent in decrying “irresponsible messaging”, this messaging by one of his headliner comics should also be rebuked the same way he rebuked women talking about harassment.

    If he does not, then he is not being consistent — in other words, he probably only picked the first fight I described because he has a grudge against these women and bloggers.

    If he does rebuke this comic, it would be a good thing — he would not seem hypocritical in my eyes — but I suspect he will not, because it would do more damage to the TAM brand to say that what this person said about TAM was wrong and damaging.

    There is no perfect course of action for DJ Grothe in this. I am only holding him to account because of the potential for hypocrisy here. If he remains silent, he is a hypocrite. If he speaks up, he gains back some of my respect, but probably damages the brand he’s working so hard to build.

  10. 16

    Stanhope is already invited and the schedule’s already set; it’s too late to take any further action. Some people might have only bought attendance on his name as a draw, so that would be false advertising to kick him out where he plays tonight.

    Future participation in other TAMs could be curtailed if DJ was willing to make an ideological stand, but I also doubt he’d go that far. DJ appears to know who butters his bread.

  11. 17


    So, in reality, you want D.J. to remove Stanhope from TAM, because Stanhope defends slurring, and even engages in some himself. You think it is too late now, but, if D.J. invites Stanhope in the future, D.J. is a hypocrite.

    Remember a few days ago, when you sat on a panel with Greg Laden, even though he a few days earlier had physically threatened Justin Griffith? You did not call for SkepchickCon to either rebuke or remove Laden. Was that for the same reason, that there wasn’t time, and that it would be false advertising?

    Will you similarly call for Skepchick to rebuke Greg Laden and for them not to invite him in the future?

    Or is that an entirely different situation?

  12. 19

    To clarify: what you’ve said is a complete non-sequiteur. I did not say I want DJ to do anything. I described his options, and suggested that what you’ve suggested — that DJ should remove Stanhope — is not even feasible. But you don’t know the difference between describing options and making recommendations, as you’ve already proven elsewhere. I’m not sure why I’m even trying to talk to you about any of this.

    With regard to Greg Laden and Justin Griffith, I am aware that he had apologized three times, including on an hour-long phone call with Justin, BEFORE Justin put the “threat” up on his blog. I do not think Greg should have made the “threat”, because it became another “gotcha moment” for people looking to damn Greg without damning the people that Justin Griffith was supporting.

    I will say absolutely nothing more about this. Greg Laden was fired from Freethought Blogs because Justin would not accept his apologies. What more do you want from Greg — his head?

  13. 20


    Then, allow me to sum up.

    Regarding D.J./Stanhope

    – You write this blog post, demanding that D.J. has some kind of “take” on Stanhope’s actions.
    – D.J. should, according to you, rebuke Stanhope.
    – D.J. should also, according to you, not have invited Stanhope, if it had happened before Stanhope was invited.
    – D.J. should not invite Stanhope in the future.

    Regarding Skepchick/Greg Laden/yourself

    – Greg Laden threatens Justin Griffith with physical violence, days before SkepchickCon 2012.
    – Greg Laden was already invited to SkepchickCon 2012 when he made his threat.
    – You don’t think it was a threat, but insist on writing it in quotes.
    – You will not rebuke Laden, because you feel it is made alright by Laden apologizing to Griffith, and that the whole thing is really just an attack on Laden, FTB and Skepchick.

    You have not given any indication whether you think Skepchick should invite Laden to future events, but it is fair to assume that you do not think his future presence is a problem.

    Thanks for the clarification.

  14. 21

    @Tom, back when I was doing stand-up there was a general understanding that there were “rape jokes”, jokes like Tosh was attempting, which were way out of line and NOT funny because they came across as a personal attack. Or more far afield, I may loathe Sarah Palin, but joking about her being raped would be pretty loathsome. And then there are “jokes involving or about rape” that are walking a finer line. A lot has to do with the performer’s skill. George Carlin had a fantastically funny routine, it could be an object lesson in what Tosh did wrong.

    Say you can’t joke about something because it’s not funny. Comedians run into that shit all the time.
    Like rape. They’ll say, “you can’t joke about rape. Rape’s not funny.”
    I say, “fuck you, I think it’s hilarious. How do you like that?”
    I can prove to you that rape is funny. Picture Porky Pig raping Elmer Fudd.
    See, hey why do you think they call him “Porky,” eh? I know what you’re going to say.
    “Elmer was asking for it. Elmer was coming on to Porky.
    Porky couldn’t help himself, he got a hard- on, he got horney, he lost control, he went out of his mind.”
    A lot of men talk like that. A lot of men think that way. They think it’s the woman’s fault.
    They like to blame the rape on the woman. Say, “she had it coming, she was wearing a short skirt.”
    These guys think women ought to go to prison for being cock teasers. Don’t seem fair to me.
    Don’t seem right, but you can joke about it. I believe you can joke about anything.
    It all depends on how you construct the joke. What the exaggeration is.

  15. 22

    Since your repeated “clarifications” are in actuality attempts to muddy the water and put words into people’s mouths, Claus, I have taken the liberty to place your further comments into moderation because I do not trust you to not intentionally mischaracterize everyone and everything associated with any topic of conversation. I have observed you doing exactly this at several other blogs now, and am convinced it is part of a pattern that intends to distract from the topics of conversation rather than adding clarity.

    For the record, I do not think DJ should not have invited Stanhope. I do think that DJ should express some opinion on Stanhope’s messaging, otherwise his previous opinion on feminists and harassment victims was not a principled stand but rather a grudge. If it was a principled stand, he MUST voice an opinion on Stanhope’s damaging messaging about TAM. If he does not, then he is a hypocrite with a grudge against feminists.

    And yes, I believe that Greg Laden was wrong to say what he said, but that he was further wronged by Griffith and the people Griffith was supporting (e.g., the folks who self-identify as Slimepitters) who have no compunction against making threats and who repeatedly treat threats as though they were no big deal, who are holding Greg to a higher standard than they hold themselves.

    But I will not continue on this path. Greg Laden has been punished for stepping out of line. He need not be punished further for something he’s already expressed apologies and regret over. Likewise, if DJ Grothe were ever to apologize for and express regret over saying that women discussing harassment were “regretful of sexual exploits” and engaging in “locker room talk”, I would accept the apology and while I would be wary of future messages from him, I would not hold it against him or try to destroy his career and shun him because he’d already apologized.

    In point of fact, I have, many many times, suggested that the reason I’m holding DJ to account for his actions is that I expect him to be better, to better represent our community, more equitably and more rationally, without the irrational blind spots he seems to have for valued members of our community. You, on the other hand, appear to believe that the only response to someone doing something wrong and damaging to our community is to shun them. If you’d like to shun people, you go right ahead. You have your own blog on which to shun and drive rifts deeper and splinter our communities and create tribalistic in-group dynamics.

    I’d prefer to be pluralistic, to disagree with people and tell them why I disagree, to make them better people. I do this because I have deep respect for these people. I believe they should be better. I wouldn’t hold someone to account for their actions so strenuously if they didn’t purport to represent me while at the same time harming our community.

  16. 23

    “All rape jokes are funny” is an opinion. “Rape jokes are never funny” – the heckler’s unsolicited response – was also an opinion. It wasn’t her time or place to give her opinion but that’s besides the point.

    Tosh asking, “Wouldn’t it be funny if 5 guys raped her?”, or whatever the wording was, was him making a rape joke. She obviously didn’t think it was funny but then again, “rape jokes are never funny”.

    And it’s not particularly funny. It wasn’t even prepared material for the bit. It was him trying to shut up a girl that felt she was entitled to interrupt a live performance which a room full of other patrons paid 20 bucks and 2 drink minimum to see. And the fact she was terrified because she was in a crowded room full of strangers (some that even had *gasp* PENISES!) while he was saying this suggests some type of agoraphobia to me. Is this girl that paranoid and irrational that she thought for even a moment that 5 guys were going to pounce on her in the middle of a crowded Laugh Factory to see whether or not it would evoke chuckles from the room? She needs to be telling all this to a therapist, not typing it up on her stupid blog.

    The most tragic part about this story is that the girl says she won’t let this occurrence deter her from going out to see live comedy but I’m wondering if that’s just because she likes to hear herself talk.

  17. 24


    Yes, because what’s important is that when you’re in a room with a comedian joking about rape, and an audience laughing about rape, you shouldn’t speak up out of turn. It’s rude, and it might make other people uncomfortable, or even lessen their enjoyment of the rape jokes they paid for.

    And if you have the gall to do it anyway, and that room full of people who think rape is funny turns on you in particular, it’s just downright irrational, probably even crazy, to be afraid.

  18. 25

    “I’ve got a close friend that was raped… …But anyone who would make a rape joke should be aware that there is most likely one (or more) people in their audience that have been raped. For those people, rape jokes aren’t just never funny, they’re always painful”

    Ugh, One Thousand Needles, please don’t speak for all rape survivors “because I have a friend…”, it’s kinda gross.

  19. 26

    SarahThrow: so it’s better to just make those rape jokes, than it is to generally assume rape jokes are shitty jokes and shitty as lacks of empathy? I think One Thousand Needles’ heuristic is perfectly acceptable.

  20. 27


    Ugh, One Thousand Needles, please don’t speak for all rape survivors “because I have a friend…”, it’s kinda gross.

    That’s not what was done.

    I’ve got a close friend that was raped. For all the years that I’ve known her, she just bites her lip or silently shuts down when somebody in the room is making a rape joke.
    Would I outlaw rape jokes? Of course not.
    But anyone who would make a rape joke should be aware that there is most likely one (or more) people in their audience that have been raped. For those people, rape jokes aren’t just never funny, they’re always painful.

    One Thousand Needles told an anecdote about the rape of a friend, then went on to make the point that for a specific group of people in an audience, rape jokes aren’t funny. Rather, they’re painful. At no point did xe claim to be speaking for all women or even most women.

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